Aldehyde - Formaldehyde FAQ
Aldehyde and Formaldehyde as Antimicrobials - Overview: Formaldehyde is the most basic form of an antimicrobial aldehyde.
Aldehydes and Formaldehydes can be volatile at room temperature leading to the odor commonly associated with preservation of tissue or tissue samples such as in laboratories, hospitals, and mortuaries.
As a class of antimicrobials, formaldehydes are known as reactive antimicrobials, in that their predominant mechanism for controlling microorganisms is to react with peptides and proteins in the microorganism. As this reaction progresses, an organism's biochemical processes become increasingly impaired and the organism dies.
This mechanism makes aldehyde types of chemistries very potent for all types of microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, algae and viruses. It also makes this type of chemistry problematic for use around human tissue.
Very selective and stringent guidelines must be followed to manage the appropriate use of aldehyde chemistries.
Given the utility of these types of chemistry, manufacturers of aldehyde based antimicrobials have undertaken strategies to produce larger compounds, that when in the presence of water will break apart (hydrolyze) and release monomers of formaldehyde or aldehyde containing groups. These molecules can then provide the antimicrobial actions needed but avoiding some of the health, safety and stability issues with formulating the formaldehyde molecule.